Adopting a child is the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. I had no idea when I embarked on this journey what it would really entail and how much it would change all of our lives - including the extended family of grandparents, uncle and aunts - for the better.
Never have I felt so desperate for something and so despairing when my husband and I realised we would never have a family of our own through the usual birth parenting route... and no amount of test tube intervention would change that. Being a mum was such an instinctive and assumed part of my identify that my sense of worth as a human being was in question - if I wasn't going to be a mum what was I here for? Months of raw grief and sadness ensued.
With such a strong drive to create a family I eventually bulldozed my husband into considering adoption - literally using every trick in the book I had (which is a whole different article!) to persuade him that we could and should take this step. Little did I know how much I was asking and what it would mean for us both but now, 6 years and 2 adopted children later we have an amazing - querky, joyful - but chaotic family that I am so so proud of.
The process of adopting is complicated, time consuming and intrusive - every aspect of your life is under a microscope. And it's frustrating with layers of approvals by social workers and bundles of paperwork being passed here there and everywhere but eventually you are approved to adopt a child... and the thing that kept me going was that - unlike the long and ultimately failed route to pregnancy - it was a question of when not if we succeeded this time.
During that process to become "approved" you are given training and preparation. But nothing prepared us for the monumental task of learning to become a parent to a traumatised young child who was effectively a stranger and one that didn't want to be there. She was scared and anxious about the strangers that had taken her away from the familiarity and safety of foster care and rejected all our attempts to bond and form the loving family unit we craved.
This went on for months. We were shell shocked and unprepared, but found a way through seeking the help and support of others who - we were relieved to know - were going through the same experience, and in some cases far worse.
That experience was the inspiration for The Cornerstone Partnership and the reason why, after just 18 months, we have had such success helping over 200 families to be better prepared and more attuned to the needs of adopted children and adoptive family life.
These are special, resilient, precious children and they come in all different shapes, sizes, ages and stages with a myriad different needs arising from their traumatic early life. But what we now know for a fact (from important studies looking at adoption but moreover for me, from first-hand experience of seeing what adoption does for a child) adoption is the best possible intervention for children who have experienced horrible abuse, trauma and the very worst start in life.
It transforms their life chances and gives back their childhood but it takes staying power, courage and a big heart from parents. And lots of support, which is where we come in... helping people through the same journey by peer mentoring and giving the practical parenting training that really does prepare families for the road ahead.
We've seen such positive results from our approach - more confident parents and consequently a more stable family unit - that we've been encouraged to apply this learning to working families through business backed schemes to offer family mentoring and contemporary parenting training for the many thousands of us that have to balance the needs of work with the needs of our children. For all working parents everywhere. For single parent families or families experiencing a change through separation or loss this support can be a life line.
So as we celebrate National Adoption Week I am calling on innovative and forward-thinking business leaders and owners to support us in our quest to transform the lives of parents and families through the workplace. I am keen to talk to other like-minded businesses who want to invest in their staff and workforce by nurturing their parental side. Backing our scheme will show measurable big gains in key areas - employees will be able to focus on work knowing that any worries or issues they have about their children can be shared, aired and overcome. This will also help business productivity. A win-win for children, parents and employer.